Approved Mileage Allowance Payment Rate Debate

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Department: HM Treasury

Approved Mileage Allowance Payment Rate

Kenny MacAskill Excerpts
Monday 3rd July 2023

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) (Alba)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) not only for the eloquence with which he presented his argument, but for its very balanced nature. This issue unites the Chamber; there is almost a manifest injustice here. There is little that has not increased since 2011, and there has been a significant number of elections, never mind of changes in office. As he correctly pointed out, it is not simply the voluntary sector that is affected. Not only those employed by the council, but those who are self-employed—the traditional white-van man and those in other occupations—also need recompense for the mileage that they are required to do to carry out their trade, their services or whatever.

In a matter that I have been pursuing locally it has often been put forward that there can be local settlements, but, as the hon. Member correctly pointed out, the template tends to be HMRC’s and there are implications for taxation if that is not followed. Even when I have had negotiations and discussions with officials, it has been very difficult to get political sign-off, so it is one thing for officials to be persuaded. There are Members here who were at the meeting held by Unison along with the RAC Foundation. Although some might view Unison as having a vested interest, I do not think that that can be said about the RAC Foundation.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
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I, too, was at the Unison-organised meeting and I can say only positive things about its engagement with Members right across the House. Let me put on the record my thanks to Anna Birley from Unison for the report that she so ably prepared.

Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill
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Absolutely. I am sitting with a copy of the report myself and the hon. Member is correct; there were people from a variety of parties at the meeting. The RAC Foundation was not there in a political capacity. I think Unison did the right thing to hold the meeting with the RAC Foundation. It gave the meeting ballast and legitimacy because the RAC, along with the AA, is a specialist in motoring matters and has come to the conclusion that 63p, together with some form of system, is what is necessary.

Locally, I face all the difficulties that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington ably pointed out. East Lothian is not the biggest constituency—it is not the size of some of those in the highlands of Scotland—but it is still significant. It runs along the A1 for in excess of 60 miles, from Musselburgh all the way to the villages before the Scottish Borders. Although the principal town tends to be Haddington, with the community hospital hub and the council based there, people are unable to work without going into the other towns, which are equally jealous of their independence and seek to retain their own facilities, whether it is those on the coast such as Dunbar, where I live, and North Berwick, or inland at Tranent or elsewhere, never mind the small villages. Whether someone is doing voluntary work, working for the council or carrying out a trade, they cannot do their job without running up significant mileage.

We are not only talking about those working in fields such as care. There are people in senior positions and health visitors who are struggling financially because, as with others, they have seen their mortgage go up while they have to keep a roof above their head, yet it costs them to work because they are not recompensed for the daily mileage that they rack up. They need a car to carry out their work on behalf of their employer, and they have to pay additional costs to do that. That is why the issue has to be taken on board.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington correctly pointed out that we should not just seek to remedy the mileage allowance once and then have to look at it again; it could be worthwhile to make it index linked. As the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) will be aware from the meeting I mentioned, we also have to bear in mind that when the allowance is paid by employers, it is meant to recompense workers not simply for the cost of fuel—the £1.45 that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington mentioned resonates with what Asda is currently charging in Dunbar—but for the wear and tear on their cars and for insurance.

One of the most significant things that I learned from the RAC Foundation was that fuel costs had increased at the lowest rate; insurance, as I recall, had increased at the highest rate, but other things had increased too. Not only do people have to pay for their petrol or diesel, but they have to pay the car costs that are necessary for their work and that their employer expects them to pay, because otherwise they cannot do their job. That is certainly true in my area, but it is the same in others, whether they are urban or rural. That is why the mileage allowance should be increased.

There is, as I say, political buy-in from across the Chamber. There is a recognition, not just from trade unions but from motoring organisations, that the rate is long past its sell-by date. It is clear from what others have said that this is not simply about people struggling to do their work, but about getting people into the labour market—a statement is being made elsewhere in this building on that very subject. People must be recompensed for their work and not pay out of their own pocket to do their job.

Hannah Bardell Portrait Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP)
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The hon. Gentleman is making a brilliant and eloquent speech. Many of my Livingston constituents signed the petition, but one of my constituents, who is a housing officer, was struggling to get by on the mileage allowance before the cost of living crisis. Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that if staff, whether they are NHS staff or other public sector staff, cannot get by on the mileage rate that is being offered, they will go elsewhere? We are already struggling to keep people in those vital roles.

Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill
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Absolutely. The issue was first raised with me by the chief executive of East Lothian Council, because it is struggling to retain staff, and staff are necessary.

I will finish there, Mr Sharma. It seems that we have buy-in from across the Chamber and, I think, in the community, as shown by Unison and the RAC Foundation. This is about remedying a wrong: 2011 was a long time ago politically, never mind in terms of costs, and on that basis I hope that the Minister can come around not simply to addressing the rate, but to ensuring that we do not have this issue recurring and that we sort out some annualised system.